The Search for Love​ by Merry Mortal

The Search for Love​ by Merry Mortal

Posted by Merry Mortal on 29th Nov 2015

"I want this one!"

"No, that's my Barbie. I'm always her."

"Fine, then I get the new Ken."

Grunts. "Okay."

As my sister and I brushed our Barbie's ratted,

mesmerizing blonde hair, we contemplated how they 

would find love. As a four-year-old, my ideas about love 

were limited, albeit paramount to every other detail in our 

imaginary game. The scenario always played out the 

same way: Barbie (mine was always named "Sara") goes 

to the gym and is picked up by Ken, the hawker-debonair 

who is waiting outside in his convertible. She is whisked 

away by his charm, but not without a fight- she knows how

 to play hard-to-get. After the perfect push-pull exchange,

Sara agrees to meet him later that night at a ball. The rest 

of the day is spent is joyous obsession over the perfect 

dress and the fantasy of love at first sight. As she enters 

the elaborate, fated gala, time stops to give patronage to 

her devastating beauty. Ken falls over himself in adoration.  

They dance, sing (Sara always puts on a surprise 

performance with the vocal accommodations of En Vogue 

or Mariah Carey), and they share a magical, moonlight 

kiss that seals their destiny. The next morning brings with 

it two beautiful, twin children and a full grown-up life for 

Sara. After a day or so of driving around with the family in 

the convertible, I become bored with their perfect little lives

 and want to start over.

This was my idea of love as a child, and sadly, I didn't 

outgrow this story until my thirties. Maximizing external 

beauty, minimizing my feelings and playing games, falling 

in "love" without knowing someone, becoming restless 

with intimacy and chasing the newness and excitement of 

infatuation- these were all the tools with which I "got" men.

 Like that four-year-old with doll in hand, love was never 

about a mutual exchange of sentiment and affection, but 

about "getting" love.

I bring up this story because recent events have called 

into question the integrity of some friends in the dating 

scene. An experienced, sloppy, trial and error, former 

single woman myself, I assign no judgment to these brave 

souls cast out at sea. It’s not my place to label them sex 

and love addicts nor do I gain any authority on the matter 

by being married. Conversely, as the aforementioned 

calamitous stag, it’s my obligation to offer compassion to 

those who are grievously trying to find love in the 21st 

century. Even for the healthy ones, dating is a puzzling, 

often humiliating experience of bargaining with others, 

negotiating one’s needs, and coming face to face with 

  “dating is like putting Miracle-Grow on all of your 

character defects.”

This is not to say that all dating is bad. Getting to know 

someone on an intimate level is one of the most beautiful, 

rewarding experiences. I think we can agree that some are

 better at this intimacy thing than others. A friend of mine 

experiences hyperactive intimacy. He is sadly wriggling 

himself out of our wolf pack because he has perpetually 

asserted his love from one woman in our group to the 

next. Another friend of mine evades intimacy by continuing

to return to the same toxic relationship that hasn’t served 

her for years. When I was at my worst, I consistently lied 

about my whereabouts and parked my car down the 

street from my boyfriend’s house, fearing the panic of 

being too far from him.

Whether you are ready for love, or just think you are 

ready for love, consider how your ideas about intimacy 

have shaped you. How was love demonstrated to you 

when you were a child? What expectations do you have 

associated with partnership? What stories do you tell 

yourself (i.e.: “A boyfriend/girlfriend will complete me.”)?

Are you prepared to be seen- good and bad? Can you 

identify any patterns in your relationships? Have you, in 

any way, shaped yourself (i.e.: your goals and aspirations,

your hobbies, your appearance) to attract others? Most 

importantly, what actions do you take to love yourself?

After all, love is a verb.

These were the types of questions I had to address to 

become a healthy, datable person. But my love life is still 

messy. From time to time, I care more about being right 

than living in harmony with my husband. I absolutely insist 

on controlling certain things. I am guilty of shutting my 

partner out and staying in bed all day. I compare and 

criticize. But thanks to the relentless soul searching of 

regular inventories, most days I can show up as an equal 

–free from the expectation of him to fix me or make me 

happy or pick up his clothes, relieved of my role in mind 

games and endless pursuit, pardoned from acquiescing to 

his every demand in the hopes of receiving love, and 

discharged from the fantasy of what love looks like.

What I’ve learned is love is not something you wear, it’s 

not a challenge to be conquered or a weapon to be 

wielded in the face of adversity; it’s not keeping score or 

picture-perfect Christmas cards or long-stemmed roses.

Love is what remains in spite of being perfect. It’s a 

bubble bath at the end of a long day. It’s taking yourself 

out for ice cream. It’s making your partner breakfast in 

bed or wearing that ridiculous lingerie he bought you. It’s 

fighting for each other, boredom, stress, burnt dinner, lulls,

laughter, and morning breath. It’s independence and it’s 

togetherness. It’s a journey that begins with rewriting your 

love story.


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